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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life by Edward O. Wilson: a book review

Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life by Edward O. Wilson (Liveright Pub., 2016, 259 pages, illustrations)

In between watching the Winter Olympics these past weeks -- wasn't that fun! -- I read this interesting book by the great Edward O. Wilson, one I purchased last summer and tucked aside for winter reading. The endorsement we heard last year from Paul Simon, during a Billings, Mt. concert, was added incentive to read this.

Wilson, who has published thirty other books, makes his case in enormously readable prose. He details the biodiversity that is being lost in these times and what might be done to save it. "Leaders in biodiversity research and conservation have long understood that the surviving wildlands of the world are not art museums. They are not gardens to be arranged and tended for our delectation. They are not recreation centers or harborers of natural resources or sanatoriums or undeveloped sites of business opportunities--of any kind. The wildlands and the bulk of Earth's biodiversity protected within them are another world from the one humanity is throwing together pell-mell. What do we receive from them? The stabilization of the global environment they provide and their very existence are the gifts they give to us. We are their stewards, not their owners." (pgs.84-85)

I am a big admirer of Wilson's book Biophilia, published in 1984. He received the Pulitzer Prize two times for other works of non-fiction. You can learn more about him here and by watching the excellent PBS film about his life, Of Ants and Men.

In reading this book, I also learned about the Biodiversity Heritage Library and the Encylopedia of Life which seek to provide everyone with access to a plethora of information about life on Earth.

In his chapter on "Restoration," Wilson's words had particular resonance for me, an activist who has spent my life becoming more deeply acquainted with my landscape: "For a large minority of conservation projects, some amount of restoration, meaning human intervention, is necessary. Each project is special unto itself. Each requires knowledge and love of the local environment shared by partnerships of scientists, activists, and political and economic leaders. To succeed, it needs every bit of their entrepreneurship, courage, and persistence." (pg. 175)

Wilson is a professor emeritus at Harvard University and lives in Lexington, Massachusetts. Treat yourself to this thoughtful book by this gentleman.

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